March 17, 2015

Why borders are a good thing

It is obvious that even the notion of borders doesn’t do much for the Left.  They turn their nose up at the idea of any sort of hostile looking barrier stretched along our southern frontier.  They are historically disdainful toward state’s rights, which is a border issue at heart.  Socialism, with occasional exceptions, has been an internationalist movement from the beginning.  Anti-nationalist might be a better word, since, in the leftist ideal, a worker is a worker is a worker.  Borders are a reactionary artifact in the leftist’s perception.  Well-off liberals love the fact that they can travel around Europe without the annoyance of passport checks, and they look forward to a world where they can go wherever they want, whenever they want.  “The global village” is the somewhat tarnished phrase.  So what is wrong with this ideal?  Why wouldn’t we all be better off in one gigantic multicultural playground?

Consider what a border really is.  A border is the geographical embodiment of a polity.  It is a region in which a certain set of laws or other social constraints apply.  Everyone within the border must abide by the rules of a certain system, good or bad, or suffer whatever consequences the system prescribes.  Eliminating the border between two countries does not eliminate the possibility of oppressive government – it just assures that whatever government one ends up with presides over a larger area of land and a greater number of people.  It achieves exactly the same ends as military conquest – minus the immediate carnage and the war memorials.  Globalists on the left have essentially the same concept of universal government as Stalin, Napoleon or Alexander the Great – they just want to achieve the old ambition by a different set of means.  Tourists who think that Europe is nice don’t have to live with unelected European Union technocrats running roughshod over their lives.  The elimination of a border is a centralization of power, and the centralization of power has one consequence without exception – it reduces the political relevance of the average citizen.  For all the weaknesses of smaller, more local governments, they have the virtue that their authorities are at least familiar with local cultures and conditions.  A distant, centralized authority cannot be.  Ask Tibetans what they think about the elimination of their border with China.  Ask the Greeks how well the European Union is working out for them.

The Left has tended to sneer at nationalism in recent decades, and, to be fair, nationalism really does entail some obvious risks – war being both the most obvious and the most serious.  At the heart of their revulsion, however, is not the fear of war.  The Left’s revulsion for nationalism is due to its popular character.  The technocratic thesis of contemporary socialism is that governmental experts know better what the public needs than members of the public do themselves.  The Left does not believe in expressions of the public will that do not conform to the particular prejudices of their elites.  While progressives pay lip service to multi-culturalism, ultimately they consider national cultures, or patriotism of any kind, an impediment to their internationalist plans.  Borderless multi-culturalism is just an expedient interim phase on the way to a single global mono-culture shepherded by central planners.  It doesn’t really matter whether individual progressives are consciously aiming at this end condition or not – this is the end condition that their program implies.

Conservatives are the usual targets for accusations of xenophobia, but I have met very few conservatives who wish to interfere in the affairs of other countries.  Most are more than happy, for example, to let Mexicans work out their own national destiny – provided they don’t interfere unduly with ours.  The weak border we currently have has actually been a menace to both countries.  Mexico wouldn’t be plagued with brutal drug cartels if the border were strong enough to cut the traffic to a trickle.  Mexico isn’t better for the flow of American drug money into their society, any more than American workers are better for the flow of underpaid foreign workers into theirs.  The destabilization of Mexican society is not the product of conservative xenophobia, but of a progressive preoccupation – the idea that an ugly fence with concertina wire decorations might hurt someone’s feelings.  The irony is that the bleeding heart of the leftist leadership actually cares no more about the porous border killing Mexicans in Mexico than he cares about the lack of effective law enforcement killing black kids in Chicago.

Within the United States, the expansion of Federal authority represents a similar assault on our internal borders –  a reduction of the sovereign powers of the states.  Today, if an American wants to smoke pot legally, he can move to Colorado.  If he’s inclined to hire prostitutes, Nevada is the state for him.  If he likes to show his religious devotion by handling poisonous snakes, West Virginia is the place he ought to be.  None of us is enthusiastic about everything that goes on everywhere in the country, but as of now the country still abounds in choices.  That is freedom.  That is the power of regional and local government.  The thing about Federal laws, on the other hand, is that they eliminate things from the sphere of local choice.  While there are a few things that we all must agree on for the sake of national coherence, they are far fewer in number than the range of subjects bound up in the morass of current Federal laws and regulations.  Laws made by distant officials are, in effect, the rule book of an official state culture.  When Massachusetts and Kansas are both governed primarily from Washington they are both a good deal less free.  Borders, in short, preserve our freedom.

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